A Century of Overcrowded Homes in Los Angeles: How We Talked About It

Our overcrowded housing story involved dozens of interviews and visits to overcrowded apartments where COVID-19 was rampant. We looked at historical books, scholarly journals, oral histories, census and public health data, municipal records, and newspapers. press clippings.

In addition to the people struggling with overcrowding who are documented in history, we want to pay tribute to the historians and researchers who were kind enough to share their time and expertise.

For a comprehensive look at crowded housing, we conducted several interviews with Dowell Myers, professor of policy, planning, and demography at USC and one of the most prominent experts on this topic.

To investigate the intersection of COVID-19 and overcrowding, we interviewed, among others, Paul Ong, professor emeritus of urban planning at UCLA; Jarvis Chen, social epidemiologist at Harvard; Steve Graves, professor of economics at Cal State Northridge; and Dr. David Eisenman, professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Claudia Solari, senior research associate at the Urban Institute, spoke about the non-COVID effects of overcrowding. And James Rojas, an urban planner, described the issues facing Latinos specifically.

USC historian William Deverell offered his insight into how Los Angeles has developed since its frontier days. Manuel Pastor, director of the USC Equity Research Institute; Natalia Molina, USC historian; and Fernando Guerra, director of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount, discussed the history of Latinos in the area.

This story has been fleshed out with dozens of books and articles, including Mark Wild’s “Street Meeting”, Robert M. Fogelson’s “The Fragmented Metropolis”, Carey McWilliams’ “Southern California”, and “Paradise Promoted”. by Tom Zimmerman.

“Fit to Be Citizens?” de Molina describes the racial implications of the tuberculosis epidemics of the 1920s, as do Emily K. Abel’s “Tuberculosis & the Politics of Exclusion”, Stephanie Lewthwaite’s “Race, Place and Reform in Mexican Los Angeles”, and “The Provisional City by Dana Cuff. We also consulted contemporary scholarly work, primarily by sociology researchers at USC.

In our research on the deportation and forced emigration campaign of the 1930s, we relied on Francisco E. Balderrama and Raymond Rodríguez’s book “Decade of Betrayal” and conducted interviews with Balderrama. Oral history interviews conducted by Christine Valenciana, an associate professor at Cal State Fullerton, shed light on the personal stories of those who were deported from the United States.

Don Parson’s “Making a Better World” and Eric Nusbaum’s “Stealing Home” documented the Chavez Ravine saga. We also interviewed Priscilla Leiva, assistant professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o studies at Loyola Marymount, who has done extensive research on the history of these neighborhoods.

Greg Morrow’s “The Homeowner Revolution” provided a useful window into the “slow growth” movement of the 1970s.

The socio-economic landscape of LA housing in the late 20th century century has been exhibited in William Fulton’s “The Reluctant Metropolis”, Ivan Light’s “Deflecting Immigration”, Jacob Wegmann’s “We Just Built It” and Mike Davis’ “The LA Inferno”.

Although not all of the historians and researchers we interviewed were included in the report, their expertise was invaluable in helping to better understand the problem of overcrowding in Los Angeles.


Los Angeles Times

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